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WHCA Complains: Press Shut Out at White House

After being shut out of the President's Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) is appealing to the White House to give the press corps access to an event that's been called one of the President's most important foreign policy priorities for almost a year - the signing of the START Treaty. In a letter to Press Sec. Robert Gibbs, the WHCA Board complained about their lack of access to the President throughout the crisis in Egypt and outlined their request to open today's treaty signing to the White House pool. Letter from Julia Whiston of the WHCA below:
Good morning Robert,

We recognize that the crisis in Egypt is a quickly evolving story and you are working to get us the information we need in a timely manner, but we are concerned about several access issues on Tuesday and now today.

On behalf of the White House Correspondents Association we are writing to protest in the strongest possible terms the White House's decision to close the President's Cabinet meeting on Tuesday and his signing of the START Treaty today to the full press pool.

Sherlock

Egypt Official: White House Demands Contradictory

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© AP Photo/Tarek Fawzy
Egyptian anti-government protestors, some of them atop a damaged police vehicle, gather by the seafront in Alexandria, Egypt, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011.
Washington - An Egyptian official, speaking for his government, is complaining that the U.S. is pressing for President Hosni Mubarak's swift departure even as the White House publicly urges an orderly transition.

The official, speaking from a location outside Egypt, also told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Mubarak's decision not to seek re-election in September was not a result of pressure from President Barack Obama, who has spoken with the Egyptian leader twice since the street uprising began more than a week ago.

The official said in the statement: "There is a clear contradiction between an orderly process of transition and the insistence that this process be rushed."

The official spoke on condition of anonymity, saying his government would not allow him to associate his name with the statement.

He said Mubarak, in addition to agreeing not to run again, had appointed a vice president, stated his readiness for dialogue with the opposition and promised changes in the constitution.

Phoenix

Supporters of Hosni Mubarak attack foreign journalists in Egypt

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© Amr Nabil/AP
An Egyptian policeman cries as he receives a warm welcome from pro-Mubarak supporters in Cairo, three days after the police disappeared from the streets.
Four reporters set upon as hundreds of pro-government supporters launch resistance against protests

Supporters of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak beat up several journalists after going on the offensive today.

Anderson Cooper from CNN, two Associated Press correspondents and a Belgian reporter were all set upon as hundreds of young pro-government supporters attacked crowds demanding Mubarak's immediate resignation.

Cooper said he and his crew came under attack, but CNN said no one was seriously hurt. Two Associated Press correspondents and several other journalists were roughed up during gatherings of Mubarak supporters.

In what appeared to be the most serious incident, a Belgian correspondent who reports for newspapers in Brussels, northern France and Geneva, was beaten, detained and accused of spying.

Maurice Sarfatti, who uses the byline Dumont, was covering a pro-Mubarak demonstration in the Cairo district of Shoubra when he said he was hit.

Arrow Down

Russian Population Continued To Shrink In 2010 - Statistics Service

The natural decline of the Russian population (the number of those born minus the number of those who have died) in January-November 2010 amounted to 226,700, which is 2,400 more than in the same period of the previous year, corporate-owned Russian news agency Interfax reported on 27 January, quoting the Federal State Statistics Service, Rosstat.

In January-July the natural decline of the population was still 166,000 and was by 18,000 less than the previous year. However, taking into the account figures for August, which was famous for anomalous heat and fires, the dynamics already changed and the natural decline in January-August was 198,300 (15,300 more than in the same period of the previous year).

The number of deaths in January-November 2010 was 1,862,900 people, which is 28,300 more than over the 11 months of 2009, Interfax said.

Handcuffs

Saudi Arabia to Punish Officials for Damage After Jeddah Floods

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© alriyadh.com
Saudi Arabia will punish officials for negligence after flooding due to heavy rains damaged infrastructure and displaced people in Jeddah, the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing Prince Nayef, the kingdom's interior minister.

A committee was set up to investigate the response to last month's floods, which damaged 25,000 buildings, 2,500 shops and 90 percent of the city's roads, the Riyadh-based news service reported late yesterday. The government had to provide shelter for about 18,000 people, according to the news service.

At least 10 people were killed and 114 injured, Mohammed al-Qarni, General Major in the Civil Defense Department in Jeddah, said in an interview on Jan. 29.

Heavy rains raised water levels in Jeddah to 111 millimeters (4.4 inches) on Jan. 26, according to Mansour al- Mazroui, head of the meteorology department at King Abdulaziz University. That compares with a peak of 90 millimeters in November 2009 when flooding left at least 123 people dead in the city.

Comment: Isn't Jeddah supposed to be situated in a desert?! From Wiki:
Rainfall in Jeddah is generally sparse, and usually occurs in small amounts in December. There have also been several notable incidents of hail. Heavy thunderstorms are common in winter. The thunderstorm of December 2008 was the largest in recent memory, with rain reaching around 3 inches (7.6 cm)
3 inches?! It looks like that two-year-old record has been soundly beaten!






Attention

Egypt: Chaos in Cairo as Mubarak backers, opponents clash

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© Ben Curtis/AP
Pro-government demonstrators clash with anti-government demonstrators under the watchful eye of a single soldier on the roof of the Egyptian Museum
Thousands of supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak battled in Cairo's main square Wednesday, raining stones, bottles and firebombs on each other in scenes of uncontrolled violence chaos as soldiers stood by without intervening. Government backers galloped in on horses and camels, only to be dragged to the ground and beaten bloody.

At the fighting's main front line, next to the famed Egyptian Museum at the edge of Tahrir Square, pro-government rioters blanketed the rooftops of nearby buildings, dumping bricks and firebombs onto the crowd below - in the process setting a tree ablaze inside the museum grounds. Below on the street, the two sides, crouched behind abandoned trucks, hurled chunks of concrete and bottles at each other, and some government supporters waved machetes.

Bloodied anti-government protesters were taken to makeshift clinics in mosques and alleyways, and some pleaded for protection from soldiers stationed at the square, who refused. Soldiers did nothing to stop the violence beyond firing an occasional shot in the air.

"Hosni has opened the door for these thugs to attack us," one man with a loudspeaker shouted to the crowds during the fighting.

Attention

Children With Home Computers Likely to Have Lower Test Scores

Duke study analyzed responses on North Carolina's mandated End-of-Grade tests

Around the country and throughout the world, politicians and education activists have sought to eliminate the "digital divide" by guaranteeing universal access to home computers, and in some cases to high-speed Internet service.

However, according to a new study by scholars at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy, these efforts would actually widen the achievement gap in math and reading scores. Students in grades five through eight, particularly those from disadvantaged families, tend to post lower scores once these technologies arrive in their home.

Mr. Potato

US: Woman Tries To Mail Puppy In Box

Minneapolis, Minnesota - They're calling it the parcel puppy. A Minneapolis woman is charged with animal cruelty after police say she tried to send a puppy through the mail.

The poodle-mixed pup is being held temporarily at the animal control office in Minneapolis but still belongs to the woman who allegedly tried to mail it - 39-year-old Stacey Champion.

"Clearly there wasn't a whole lot of thought that went into this," said Sgt. Angela Dodge with the Minneapolis Police Department.

Dodge said last Tuesday Champion took the puppy to the Loring Post Office. The puppy was in a box with a priority sticker on it.

Life Preserver

US: Free pizza for the unemployed

Orange County, Florida - The unemployment rates in Central Florida are hovering in the double-digits and there hasn't been a lot of good news lately for job seekers. In honor of those who are working hard to get back to work, Pie-Fection, a new fresh-ingredient, made-while-you-watch pizza restaurant in Orlando, offered free pizzas to Central Floridians Tuesday who have lost their jobs.

"We're in a position now to give back to the community and that's what we like to do," said co-owner Jon Diaz.

Diaz and his business partner, Luke Fernbach, are recent college grads who grew up here in Central Florida, and today they teamed up with Workforce Central Florida to help folks like Isaac Crumpton find a job.

"I've got a lot of experience and a great attitude, but just haven't been fortunate enough to find something that just fits me," said Crumpton.

Stormtrooper

What Corruption and Force Have Wrought in Egypt

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© AP/Ben Curtis
The uprising in Egypt, although united around the nearly universal desire to rid the country of the military dictator Hosni Mubarak, also presages the inevitable shift within the Arab world away from secular regimes toward an embrace of Islamic rule. Don't be fooled by the glib sloganeering about democracy or the facile reporting by Western reporters - few of whom speak Arabic or have experience in the region. Egyptians are not Americans. They have their own culture, their own sets of grievances and their own history. And it is not ours. They want, as we do, to have a say in their own governance, but that say will include widespread support - especially among Egypt's poor, who make up more than half the country and live on about two dollars a day - for the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic parties. Any real opening of the political system in the Arab world's most populated nation will see an empowering of these Islamic movements. And any attempt to close the system further - say a replacement of Mubarak with another military dictator - will ensure a deeper radicalization in Egypt and the wider Arab world.

The only way opposition to the U.S.-backed regime of Mubarak could be expressed for the past three decades was through Islamic movements, from the Muslim Brotherhood to more radical Islamic groups, some of which embrace violence. And any replacement of Mubarak (which now seems almost certain) while it may initially be dominated by moderate, secular leaders will, once elections are held and popular will is expressed, have an Islamic coloring. A new government, to maintain credibility with the Egyptian population, will have to more actively defy demands from Washington and be more openly antagonistic to Israel. What is happening in Egypt, like what happened in Tunisia, tightens the noose that will - unless Israel and Washington radically change their policies toward the Palestinians and the Muslim world - threaten to strangle the Jewish state as well as dramatically curtail American influence in the Middle East.